Korean Spa Experience

*Warning: TMI and mental pictures that may be difficult to unsee.  Fortunately, no actual photographs exist.*

Although I had never been to a Korean spa, I had heard a few stories to think that I knew what to expect.  I was expecting a no-frills, matter-of-fact experience in which the sin of my benign neglect towards my skin would be expunged and a shiny, moisturized new self would emerge.  Good bye, epidermal chrysalis!  Hello, skin as soft as a baby’s butt!

So, yes, I decided to treat myself on my birthday.  I had the day off and SMS was working.  We had birthday dinner plans but the day was mine.  I went online and booked the “Goddess Treatment,” because why deny my true nature?  I drove to the spa about 45 minutes early so I could soak in the hot tub and steam in the sauna before my treatment. 

I paid up front and went into the locker room.  It was really nice and clean, which I expected for a spa in Palo Alto.  I stripped down, locked up my clothes, and went into the main spa area.  There were two shower areas, one Western-style shower and one similar to showers I had seen in onsens, with a hand-held shower in a chest-level holder, a mirror, a stool and a wash bowl.  I didn’t see the onsen-style shower until after I had taken my stand-up shower but next time, I’ll use that.  I went into the hot tub, which felt delightful. I would guess it was about 102-103 degrees F.  I sat for a bit and decided to brave the cold plunge, which felt so awful that I figure that in some twisted way, it has to be good for me, right?  I also went into the steam room with a hint of eucalyptus in the air.  I mainly focused on the tubs, though, since I wouldn’t be allowed to go into them after the treatments due to the oils and moisturizers used.

My number was called by Lisa, a small woman in a black sports-bra/granny panty set (bathing suit probably but cannot rule out underwear).  We walked into the adjacent treatment area. This back area had a bunch of tiled off stalls that each had a table in the middle with a pad similar to a diaper changing table- foam covered by a plastic-y wrap that was more comfortable than it looked.  I laid down on my stomach with my head turned and, since the partitions between the stalls were only 3/4 length, realized I could look directly into the eyes of the woman getting a treatment next door.  And that is when I closed my eyes. 

So, Lisa had an enemy and it was my epidermis.  She scrubbed with a vigor I thought I had been expecting, but the reality was far more impressive.  I started on my stomach, which seems a good way to begin since I feel that front nakedness is more exposed than back nakedness.  But then it was time to roll onto my back.  She put a folded up towel over my crotch, which at first I thought was for modesty but actually seemed more like a backstop to protect my vagina from an accidental overshoot of vigorous scrubbing.  Although I realize this sounds cringe-worthy don’t worry, it gets worse.

So, in David Sedaris’ book Me Talk Pretty One Day, he talks about how his sister Amy was so dedicated to obtaining a perfect, uniform tan that she would lay out in (un)intentionally lascivious positions to make sure that all areas were hit by the sun- inner thighs, side body, etc.    Well, those were the next two positions as I lay on my side with my legs posed in a way that would have been rather sexy in certain situations but in this scenario was anything but.  At this point, my eyes were closed because if I couldn’t see anyone or anything, maybe no one would see me.  I mean, don’t get me wrong.  It was just me and Lisa but still, that was two people too many to witness that awkward of a position.

After the scrub, I was sent to the shower to rinse off.  I craned my neck so I could look over my shoulder, since I was convinced I would see punctate bleeding.  I didn’t.  I know this sounds slightly ridiculous but this entire treatment was in the spirit of hurts so good.  

After the scrub and rinse, I had a massage that was nice.  Vigorous rather than relaxing still applied, but it felt pretty good.  The massage also made me think back to a time when a (female) dentist I worked with on the Kitty Hawk went to a couples’ massage session in Malaysia since it was cheaper to get the treatments in a shared room.  Well, I was super relaxed during my massage when I was slightly startled by the masseuse asking, popping up right next to my face, “Breast massage?!”  I had no idea of this was legit or totally shady so I said no.  When I asked my friend if the same thing had happened to her, it had and she had totally gone for it!   She said it was fine and mainly focused on the pec muscles rather than breasts proper.

Well, dear readers, life does give second chances.  

After the massage, I had a body wrap.  I know, if this is starting to sound like a lot, we are way past that but remember, it is the goddess treatment.

Finally, all the treatments were complete.  I showered off and sat in the dry sauna and steam room for 45 minutes.  I dried off and then lay in the heated Himalayan salt room.  

So, final verdict.  It was pretty awesome!  Definitely not as relaxing as most of my spa experiences (which aren’t that many), but very invigorating.  I would definitely go again, but I think a scrub alone will be my treatment of choice.  I know!  Even though it feels more like a endurance event than a beauty treatment, my skin did look pret-ty good afterwards.  

Birthday Weekend!

IMG_4601

Happy birthday to me!  I ended up taking two days off and spending a long weekend in California.  It was fantastic.  SMS had planned fun things to do and the weather was absolutely beautiful.

IMG_4602
The only (out)house we can afford in Silicon Valley. Great views though!

I arrived late Friday night and on Saturday, I woke up for wine time!  Does that sound either way too early and/or that I slept until late afternoon?  Yes.  Though what actually happened is that SMS planned a lunchtime picnic at Ridge Winery, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  We drove up the winding mountain road, filled with expensive sports cars and seemingly suicidal bikers.  The Ridge Estate is near the top of Monte Bello, with an incredible view over the Valley.

IMG_4599

But first, wine.  We went into the tasting room where SMS asked to sample the chardonnay.  He had been to Ridge the weekend prior with some French colleagues and thought the wine was delicious.  It was.  We ordered a bottle and took it up to the knoll, where there were several tables.

IMG_4598

We had a feast!  SMS had bought Mt. Tam cheese, olive tamponade, coppa, and crackers.  It was an awesome spread and we had such a fun, mellow time.  We also witnessed an engagement!  There was a couple with a blanket on the hill but what made us notice them were the two photographers he had hired to photo document the event.  It’s crazy to me that someone (the woman) can be in situation where surveillance-like photos are being taken and have no idea but it’s hard to know everything that’s going on in background surroundings.

Sidenote: In looking up what meat SMS had bought, I found this list of “30 Essential Cured Meats.”  For me, big nopes include headcheese and zungenwurst.

After the winery, we headed back to the house.  Later that afternoon, we had a reservation for hot tubbing at Watercourse Way, followed by dinner with our friends Akshay and Jyotsna.  They were running late so Mark took me by his work and showed off the prototype car.  It’s pretty spectacular!  The building itself was very impressive- commercial/industrial real estate is fascinating to me.  It’s amazing how much planning and coordination of multiple systems have to be considered within the overall building design.

IMG_4613
Environmentally painted tree in Palo Alto. Sure, whatever!

We went to Lazy Dog for dinner, which had really good food.  I ordered the spaghetti squash with “beetballs,” since I was craving veggies.  It was delicious.  Jyotsna, who placed her order later, was unlucky because I had ordered the last plate.  Maybe I will invite her over and recreate the dish as a makeup!

At the end of the meal, Akshay had requested a scoop of ice cream be brought out with a candle in honor of my birthday.  It was definitely embarrassing to be sung to in the restaurant but also very sweet of him to think of the mini-celebration.

IMG_4617

The next day, I slept in which was delightful.  SMS and I decided to do something active so we headed over to Windy Hill for a hike.  It was gorgeous.  This time, we parked at the top, walked down Spring Ridge Trail and up Hamm’s Gulch Trail.  I definitely think this is the way to do it!  Walking down SRT allows for beautiful views of the valley while walking up HGT provides shade during the higher exertion part of the hike.

For dinner, we went out for Korean grill with two of our friends.  The food was delicious and the conversation quite interesting, since part of it involved Brexit from a British perspective.  Of course, they don’t represent all of the UK, but hearing about living through the referendum campaign was quite interesting.

Monday, I was on my own because SMS had to work.  #startuplife.  No matter!  I had a great day planned!  First, I went to Blue Bottle coffee and got an Americano.  I had been quite grumpy at them the day before because they totally ripped me off with a half-full espresso the day prior.  Picture a tiny espresso.  Now picture it even tinier.  Boo!  But clearly, I got over it quickly enough to go back, albeit still a little grumpy.

Get over it!  Ok, so anyway, then I went for a 10 mile run to the Stanford Dish, around, and back.  It’s actually only 9 miles total from the apartment and back so I had to add a mile at the end, which is always a little hard to motivate for but I did it!  Then, I went to Rangoon Ruby for lunch where I had the Tea Leaf salad (5 stars) and Nan Gyi Dok (noodle dish- would not recommend).

IMG_4630.jpg

IMG_4631

After lunch, I walked over to the Cantor Arts Center and walked through a couple of exhibits there.  Upon entering, there is the most incredible horse sculpture that looks like it is made of driftwood but is actually cast bronze.  The artist made ceramic casts of driftwood, filled them with bronze, and then shattered the ceramic casts once the bronze had cooled.  It was a stunning piece called Viktoria by Deborah Butterfield.

I also took in the 3 works that comprise Do Ho Suh’s The Spaces in Between exhibit.  They were interesting works using repetitive visual objects to create a larger piece/sculpture.

IMG_4647

I also walked through Josiah McElheny’s Island Universe, where I inadvertently broke several rules.  First, I missed the strict designation for photo taking spots since, apparently, people had actually walked into the sculptures while taking pictures.  Poor form, ruining it (and the sculptures) for everyone.  To be clear, I did not do this.  The second thing I did was walk under a sculpture (that was suspended about 9 feet off the ground) because earlier in the exhibit, a piece had randomly fallen off of it.  So, basically, I walked through an exhibit full of reactive rules, ha ha.

IMG_4650.jpg

I also saw the Betelgeuse by Spencer Finch, suspended over Rodin’s The Thinker.  Overall, it was a very cool museum outing that took a little over an hour.  On the way back home, I walked through Stanford Mall with beautiful flowers throughout the mall.

I could have stayed longer but I had to walk back to the apartment to get ready for my Korean spa appointment, which was an experience that was so amazing/crazy that it will have it’s own post.  I’m envisioning David Sedaris levels of hilarity although the reality will likely be just an extremely awkward post with bad and unwanted mental images.

That night, SMS and I went out to Camper, a restaurant that had caught his eye.  It was a really nice birthday dinner.  We ordered several dishes with an even split between the amazing and the ok.  The drinks were quite good.  The restaurant acoustics were pretty terrible and are making me contemplate a second career in acoustic design (I have ideas!).  Overall, I would recommend the place but there are still so many places we want to try that I don’t think SMS and I will be back anytime soon.  Does that make sense?  It was definitely a good experience but it didn’t vault itself into the “most become a regular spot” category.  I do think it is a regular spot for many because it was very crowded for a Monday night!

The next day, SMS and I went out for breakfast at Blue Bottle where we split an avocado toast and had our own hot drink.  After packing and picking up the apartment, I headed to the airport where I had a delightful lunch in the American Express Centurion Lounge (love that place!).  On the flight, I got a free drink since the United computer told the flight attendant it was my birthday!  I continued the corporate flare to my birthday by getting upgraded on the second leg AND getting a free Starbucks drink during the layover.  Happy birthday to me!  Why so much travel on my actual birthday day?  Well, I don’t have a lot of vacation time due to a big trip the second half of this month plus SMS would have had to work during the day so I decided to head back.  The weekend was celebration enough!

JEC Day 2 and Last Night in Paris

Our personal driver was back to escort us to JEC day 2.  It was quite cold, rainy, and windy out so it was nice to be indoors.  We finished up touring all the booths and went to a conference on Phenolic resins for fire resistance and low smoke.  It is an old material used extensively inside trains and airplanes where fire safety is critical.  We were also informed that Bakelite is still quite popular in Europe but has a stigma in the US as being old school.  Caroline always says that I am a bit old school.  I still program in Fortran so there you go.  I will need to find a use for Bakelite!

By this point in the trip, Adam’s wife Adrienne joined us.  Three is company so we headed to restaurant Allard, which ended up being a bit classic and that was the point.  Old school!  It was good but I do not think it is a must visit.  We finished up the night at the Rosewood Bar at Hotel de Crillon near Champs-Elysees.  It was Thrusday and as anybody from Palo Alto knows, Thursday night at the Rosewood Bar in Palo Alto is Cougar Night!  It did not seem to be the case in the Paris version.  Perhaps the $20 beers keep it low key.

Adrienne’s friend Adrian is the night manager of the hotel so we got to tour a room a nice courtyard and a banquet hall with views of the Eiffel Tower. The room had historic painted walls in it that have to be removed when they work on the interior.  It is only $1295 per night in winter so I was thinking of booking one for my next week in Paris.

IMG_7155

Friday stared off with a visit to our supplier’s Paris headquarters.  On the walk from the metro we encountered a small street fair where we got crepes and an omlette sandwich.  Yum.  We had a French café lunch at their 8thfloor café.  The chef was a bit intense.  I think he probably joins the yellow vest protests even though he probably doesn’t have a car (fuel tax protest).  We finished up work early so it was off to the Catacombs of Paris which happened to be nearby our hotel.  The wait was about an hour.  If you book online then you can skip the line.

IMG_7158

The Catacombs start off with a spiral staircase going down into the ground and it never seems to end.  Then a long narrow tunnel leads to what was once a limestone mine that got turned into an ossuary.  It is like a wine cellar but stacked with human bones instead of wine barrels.  The mines were used to “build Paris”.  In the late 1700s the then abandoned mines became the perfect place to begin moving remains from cemeteries.  At that time Paris was looking for room to expand and it turns out that the living needed the land more than the dead.

Friday finished off with a stop at Ker Beer, a new and hip beer bar full of Brittany style beers.  Apparently the 14tharr is all Brittan themed. Adrienne met us there and we headed off to a “Michelin Star” pho at Pho Tai in the 13tharr.  I am not convinced of this rumor but it was very tasty. They did have a few Michelin guides in the restaurant.  The broth was a bit more rich and less clear than traditional pho.

IMG_7164

Saturday was our last day and I struck out on my own to walk the Luxembourg garden.  If there is one thing I like as much as old school it is tiny countries.  While not Luxembourg proper, the garden was nice.  It has rows of trees and a big palace of the same name.  From there it was off to the airport.  On the flight, I read Bad Blood cover to cover in one go.  It is a riveting true story of Silicon Valley drama at the company Theranos.  I am currently working in the old Theranos Newark lab.  Some of it still has the old lab space left untouched and some quotes on the wall by none other than the protagonist herself.

My flight landed in Oakland 11 or so hours later at about 7:00 pm and it was straight off to my friend’s birthday party in a newly gentrified and millennial feeling bit of Oakland at a restaurant/brewery Drake’s Dealership.  They made better use of the place than the car dealership it replaced.  It was a long Uber ride back to MP and I slept a good 12 hours that night.

Sunday Soliloquy #8

  • This week marked a return to real book reading rather than an e-reader.  I read two!  One was Jasper Fforde’s new book, Early Riser, which was good.  Very absurd but I enjoyed it.  I would recommend his Thursday Next series over this book though if you had to read just one of his books.  I also read Maeve Higgins’ Maeve in America which was a collection of personal essays.  There were a few on immigration that I quite liked but overall, the book was fine.  Not my highest rec but it was a quick read.
  • This weekend has been fairly mellow.  After a month of Whole 30 (yay!  done!), I ate some of Run Fast, Eat Slow‘s superhero muffins and my long run pace was about 25 seconds faster.  Yay!  I think carbs are helpful for endurance workouts (says almost every sports nutrition article out there, I know).
  • I went to a patient’s 90s hip hop birthday party that was a lot of fun  I dressed up in scrub pants, a shirt that had “NO” spray-painted on, and several attached scrubbie sponges.  Get it?  No Scrubs!  While I had to explain my outfit several times, it was definitely a hit once people got the joke.  As everyone knows, there’s nothing funnier than a joke that needs to be explained (waaaiiitttt….).  For those not up on their 90s hip hop, “No Scrubs” was a pretty big hit for the group TLC.
  • I’m off to California next weekend!  I can’t wait.  Then it’ll be two weeks before I head off to Japan!  I even have reservations at the New Sanno!  April is the month of no work, ha ha.

JEC Composites, Day 1

SMS guest-posting continues…IMG_7136

Day 1 of the JEC composites conference started out with a Criossant and an hour train ride jam packed to Tokyo standards. The JEC takes up 2 large exhibition halls in the Parc des Expositions near CDG airport. It is full of composite materials manufacturers, tooling manufacturers, and composite part manufacturers. There are some lectures. We attended ones on electric cars, structural simulation, and fireproof resin. There were a lot of booths and we covered most of them the first day.  One thing that stick out to me are the thermoplastic composite parts. They are made with re-meltable plastic as opposed to traditional composites that set and cannot be re-melted.

 

IMG_7112Also noteworthy were the companies with bars in their booths. You won’t see that in America.

IMG_7123

On the way home, I stopped in to restaurant Augustin near the hotel. It ended up being upscale. I had a 3 course meal that was more than filling. The Filet Mignon I had was the whole fillet, not just a medallion American-style. They somewhat forgot to cook it and, because it was so thick, came out very rare for my taste.  I should have got the duck because it is typically not done well (or at all) back home but I think America has steak nailed pretty well.